Review: The Walkmen excellent at Observatory
Last time I caught the Walkmen live was at Coachella ’06, where the New York City-via-Washington D.C. band’s ramshackle brand of garage rock was engulfed by a mid-afternoon main stage slot.
When their debut Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone came out a decade ago, the quintet were branded “the next Strokes” by music taste-makers. The comparison didn’t exactly match up sales-wise, but a large cult following, more prolific recording schedule and steady support from college/NPR stations (including KCRW) ensued.
Heaven, the exemplary new studio effort, went Top 5 on the College Music Journal album chart soon after it was released in May. Produced by Phil Ek (known for his work with Fleet Foxes, the Shins and Built to Spill), the Walkmen’s rich stylistic aesthetic is more pronounced than ever. All the ringing electric and acoustic guitar shadings would surely meet Johnny Marr’s approval. The Foxes’ Robin Pecknold even provides a guest vocal turn (both acts toured together and played the Greek together last September).
Saturday night at the Observatory, the group started an excellent 80-minute show in measured fashion with a stark, piano-led “Hang On, Siobhan.” On the recorded version, from 2004’s Bows + Arrows, frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s woozy rasp recalls the Pogues’ Shane MacGowan; in concert, he practically crooned the lyrics about last call at a downtown bar. It was an example of how the quintet has matured and progressed over the years.